Leashed Dogs Will Soon Legally Enjoy Riverwalk
Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Foresty Board agrees that a portion of the riverwalk can be used for dog walkers.
A pilot program allowing leashed dogs will begin on a portion of the riverwalk in Downtown Waukesha begins Oct. 1.
Leashed dogs will be permitted from the clock tower across from Waukesha State Bank to Bethesda Park, following unanimous approval of the proposal by members of the Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board.
“We are open to it,” said WPRF Director Ron Grall. “We are not necessarily known as the most dog-friendly park system.”
The growth of dog-friendly parks has been “tremendous” over the past 10 years, said Grall. Additionally, Waukesha’s Central City Master Plan recommended creating a dog walk for the community.
“It is not a fad,” Grall said. “It is not going away.”
The majority of Waukesha County parks allow leashed dogs, Grall said. And Minooka Park has a dog park where the four-legged companions can run and play in a fenced-in area.
Changes Viewed as Extension of City Sidewalk
When it comes to the enforcement of city ordinances, Grall is expecting that people who walk the dogs on the riverwalk follow the city’s code, which is:
- Keep the dogs under control
- Use a leash; 6-feet maximum
- Clean up after the pet and properly dispose of the waste
“We are looking at it as an extension of a city sidewalk,” Grall said.
But Will People Follow the Rules?
Before giving the ultimate approval, several board members had questions about the changes.
Board Member Jim Hoppe said he was “highly skeptical” that people would clean up after the dogs on the riverwalk. He cited a recent example when a woman’s dog “deposited whatever” at Veterans’ Park.
“I said ‘Are you going to clean that up?’” Hoppe said. “She did not. She said ‘If you would provide a bag, I might.’ I suggested she maybe carry one if she is taking her dog. … When you say most follow the rules – that is not enough. My wife does not let me carry a concealed weapon or we would have had one less dog. … I just do not think most people will follow the rules.”
Board Member Rebecca Roeker said Hoppe’s encounter was the “perfect example of self policing.”
“We all recognize the dogs are everywhere anyway,” Roeker said. “If we can accept that they are there, let’s put some rules in place.”
Boad Member Wayne Merchle was worried about possible affects to the ecosystem of the Fox River.
“Dogs are going to excrement and there are going to be people who aren’t going to clean it up,” Merchle said. “It is going to rain and that stuff is going to wash in the river.”
A citizen group pushing to allow dogs in the park plans to provide trash bags and a doggy drinking fountain along the riverwalk. And the dogs will likely scare away fowl such as geese and ducks that leave feces in the river, said Vicky Hekkers, a downtown resident and a member of the group.
While there were not specific studies that Grall immediately knew of, Grall reminded Merchle that the changes are to keep the dogs on the hard surface and follow the city’s ordinances for allowing leashed dogs on sidewalks.